Filandia: Hidden Gem of Colombia
January 1, 1970
by Madeline Kayleen
Most travelers that are familiar with Colombia have visited or at least heard of Salento, the town most visited by foreigners in Colombia’s coffee region. Unfortunately, Filandia is typically overlooked by backpackers when planning their trip through the Zona Cafetera. At first glance, the two towns appear very similar with their brightly colored buildings around a beautiful central plaza. But when you take a deeper look, you’ll notice that there hardly any foreigners in Filandia, while Salento can seem overrun with tourists at times. Although Filandia’s tourism industry is beginning to attract more foreigners, it is still the perfect town to visit for those looking for a more authentic feeling; who enjoy being surrounded by locals and Colombian tourists. And don’t worry- Salento’s most famous attraction, the wax palms in Corcora Valley, are an easy day trip away from Filandia. If you’re like us and enjoy doing things slightly off the beaten track, then head to Filandia!
Filandia is a picturesque little town that is located on the edge of Colombia’s coffee district. Known as “La Colina Iluminada de los Andes” (The Illuminated Hill of the Andes), the town boasts beautiful colonial buildings and is surrounded by rolling, green hills. It is a popular destination for Colombians who want to escape the hustle and bustle of city life and relax in the peaceful and temperate climate. Surrounding the plaza are hoards of jeeps that serve as the community’s taxi transport service. Bohemian coffee shops and bakeries are easy to come by around the plaza, but as you go one block away from the plaza in any direction you can find plenty of traditional and international cuisine for an affordable price. The main “supermarket” is located right on the plaza next to the cathedral on the corner. There is another store that appears more like a traditional open veggie and fruit market a block away from the plaza, if you want to go and compare prices to get the best deals. Due to its location, the produce and vegetables in Filandia are abundant and very cheap. The locals around here are known to be friendly to foreigners, so engage them in conversation to get a little Spanish practice.
How to Arrive
At the central bus station, you have to buy a 4,600 peso ticket and you will enjoy a scenic 45-minute drive that drops you off right downtown.
You can find direct buses here as well, so the trip is virtually the same as far as distance and price. The drive is very beautiful so make sure to get a window seat.
The process is only one step more complicated even though the two towns are only 10km apart from each other. You must take a bus headed to Armenia and tell the driver you would like to get off at “Los Flores”. Once you get off, cross the street and wait for a bus that is coming from Armenia and heading to Filandia. (Just flag a bus any time one drives by, and if the have space they will pick you up.) In total, the two buses should only cost around 5,400 pesos altogether.
Where to Stay
There are two hospedajes (hostels) that we recommend for travelers who visit Filandia: Bidea Hostal & Casa Country. Both are wonderful options that differ in the following ways.
Bidea is ideal for people on a budget or only staying for a short time. A six-bed dorm will run you 23,000 pesos while a private double bed is 70,000 pesos. It has bicycles to use for 2,000 pesos per day for guests, as well as links to maps.me on their website for places of interest. A breakfast of fresh fruits and bread are offered for free, as well as full use of the kitchen and coffee all day. The staff is very friendly and will help you out when planning your excursions.
This is the perfect for those who want to get out of town and relax in the luscious coffee and plantain farmlands. If you are staying in Filandia longer than a day, we highly recommend treating yourself to a few days at Casa Country. This hostel, that looks more like a hotel, has everything you could possibly ask for: a pool, hot tub, basketball and futbòl court, ping pong and pool tables, bbq, a fire pit and a beautiful deck to appreciate the wonderful views. All rooms come with a delicious breakfast including eggs, an arepa, fruit, and fresh, local coffee. The private rooms start at 65,000 pesos ($22.59 USD), however, they also have a cheaper dorm option for the backpackers (25,000 pesos or $8.70 USD). Drinks and meal options are also available on-site. The only reason with Casa Country may not be for you is that they are located 10km out of town. So if you are just stopping in Filandia for a quick night, this may not be the most convenient option (although the owner does offer a free shuttle service from town to his place). But after reading this article about Filandia, we’re sure you’ll want to do more than just pass through! Click here for up-to-date pricing and more beautiful photos.
Activities in Filandia
Despite being a small town, Filandia is not lacking fun activities. The quickest thing to do, if you’re looking to fill in a few hours one afternoon, is to walk or take a jeep over to Finca El Mirador, a beautiful structure that looks over the coffee district. If you wish to walk, it is only 45 minutes and allows you to fully take in the beauty of the surroundings. The mirador also has a cafe so you can sip a fresh cup of local coffee while you admire the fields which it came from. For a more in depth coffee experience, you can take a tour around the plantation and receive a thorough explanation of the whole coffee process including a blind taste test.
From waterfalls to multiple day treks, there are many nature based activities to do around Filandia. “Las Cascadas Dobles,” meaning the double waterfalls, is one of the more popular day trips. From the town, you can rent a bike and take a twenty-minute ride followed by a short hike to reach the falls. There is another, lesser known waterfall near Casa Country. If you stay there, one of the owners will be happy to tell you how to get there.
Valle de Cocora
El Valle de Cocora, or Cocora Valley, is the most popular tourist attraction in this region and for good reason. Also called “home of the wax palms,” the tallest palm tree on the planet, it offers beautiful foggy landscapes with the towering palms scattered along the hillsides. The trail takes you along swing bridges over rushing rivers and through green pastures filled with grazing cows. You could go and come back in one day if you take the first bus out to Salento. Want a more challenging hike? Simply take to longer and mostly uphill trail to Estrella del Agua or go even further for a multiple day trek. To reach the trailheads, go to the main plaza of Salento and wait in a jeep until it fills up and then enjoy the half hour ride into the valley. To arrive in Salento from Filandia, you simply follow the instructions above from how to arrive from Salento in reverse order.
El Parque del Cafe
Another great activity is El Parque del Cafe, which is essentially a coffee themed amusement park about 23 kilometers away from Finlandia easily reachable by jeep, complete with rides and all. There are three levels of tickets. The economy ticket is 26,000 pesos and only includes a teleferico ride. The 7 attractions ticket is 50,000 pesos and allows you to ride seven rides one time each. The most inclusive “multiple” ticket is 60,000 and allows unlimited rides on most of the attractions. The park is complete with theatre events, water rides, roller coasters, go-karts, and everything you would expect from a modern theme park. Although we did not make it to Parque del Cafe, it sounded like a blast for those of you interested in similar places. Click here for more information on their website (note: it is in Spanish).
We already miss the little town of Filandia and will definitely be returning one day!